Bishops: US, Canadian Mining Companies Abusing Rights in Latin America

Say a Double Standard Is Being Applied; Ask Governments for Oversight

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The U.S. and Canadian governments must hold mining companies from their countries that operate in Latin America to laws and standards that protect indigenous communities and vulnerable groups, as well as local economies and the environment, said representatives of the bishops of Latin America in a hearing in Washington before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), March 19.

The hearing was held in response to a petition filed by the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM) and other member institutions of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, which represents bishops’ conferences, religious men and women and Catholic relief agencies throughout Latin America.

Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Peru and Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala represented CELAM, along with Father Peter Hughes and Enrique Pinilla of its Department of Justice and Solidarity. Bishop Donald Bolen, who heads the Peace and Justice Commission at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), as well as Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services, were present at the hearing to express support. 

A petition provided an overview of the issues pertaining to extractives in a number of Latin American countries, outlining calamitous public health and environmental consequences of mining operations by U.S. and Canadian multinationals.

The testimony at the hearing focused on six countries, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico, and focused on key themes including violence and criminalization of human rights defenders and the need for a new model of sustainable development.

Written statements of support from CCCB and USCCB were also presented at the hearing. The USCCB, through the work of its Committee on International Justice and Peace, has long been concerned about the implications of extractives and mining operations throughout the world, especially in Latin America. 

The U.S. government, joined by Canada, “must do more to support the claims and interests of these affected communities. It must require that U.S. enterprises operating in these regions abide by the same standards of care for human life and ecology as apply to their operations in the United States,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB International Justice and Peace Committee, in his letter of support.

The full text of Bishop Cantú’s letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/letter-of-solidarity-to-celam-from-bishop-cantu-re-iachr-hearing-on-extractives-2015-03-17.cfm

The leader of Canada’s bishops also sent a letter of support: http://www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/CCCB_LETTER_OF_SUPPORT_TO_CELAM_-_EN.pdf. 

The letter notes that “as a result of weak regulatory schemes in many Latin American countries and the frequent failures of some international companies to fully respect the environment and human rights, there are numerous abuses committed in connection with various mining operations, particularly in, but not restricted to, the Amazon Basin.”

The Canadian bishops’ leader adds, “It is a particular concern to us as well that the majority of mining operations in Latin America are controlled by companies registered in Canada.”

Others participating in the hearing were Bishop Roque Paloschi of the Amazonian Commission of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference, as well as David Lovatón, Legal Advisor, and Mauricio López , Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. (http://redamazonica.org/). . . 

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